Shelf Life of

How Long Does Milk Last?

How Long Does Milk Last?

Shelf Life of Milk

How long does milk last? Milk is a dairy product produced by mammals such as cattle, goats and sheep.  It comes in a variety of types (whole milk, reduced fat, skim and non-fat milk) and can be processed into other dairy products such as yogurt, butter and cheese. Studies suggest that, as a result of its high vitamin content, consumption is effective in promoting muscle growth and improving post-exercise muscle recovery. From the full taste and high cream content of whole milk to the skim and non-fat versions (which actually help when on a weight loss diet), it provides the body with much needed calcium and vitamin D to name a few. However, it is more fragile than most people realize. The shelf life of milk is influenced by a variety of factors, such as processing method and carton date, exposure to light and heat, and how it is stored. 

So, how long does milk last?

When properly stored at or below 40° F, containers of milk last for the time periods past the date printed on the carton as indicated in the table below:

(Unopened) Refrigerator
Past Printed Date
Lactose-Free Milk lasts for 7-10 Days
Non-Fat Milk lasts for 7-10 Days
Skim Milk lasts for 7 Days
Reduced-Fat Milk lasts for 7 Days
Whole Milk lasts for 5-7 Days
(Opened) Refrigerator
Past Printed Date
All Milk lasts for 5-7 Days

Of course, all types of food and drink products last for a shorter period of time if they are not stored properly. But remember, dairy products usually has a sell by date  which is the last date by which a manufacturer will vouch for a product’s quality, not its safety. Because of this distinction, you may safely use it to compliment your favorite meals even after its sell by date has lapsed, according to the table above if it is stored properly at all times.

How to tell if milk is bad, rotten or spoiled?

Practicing proper hygiene and food safety techniques will help prevent food borne illness. Although not a perfect test, your senses are usually the most reliable instruments to tell if your drink has gone bad.

Some common traits of bad milk are discoloration, lumpy texture and a very distinctive unclean sour smell (which you will notice when removing the lid) from lactic acid producing bacteria. 

If you have sour milk, check our substitute page to find a proper alternative.

There are, of course, certain health risks associated with all spoiled dairy products, so always remember to practice proper food safety and enjoy your drinks prior to its expiration (eat by date).

How to store milk to extend its shelf life?

Proper food storage is the key to extending the shelf life of milk.
Keeping it cold is essential to extending it’s shelf life.
You can help keep milk fresh longer by keeping it away from light and by placing it back in your refrigerator immediately after each use. Store milk on an interior refrigerator shelf rather than in the door, where the temperature fluctuates with frequent opening.
In addition, opened milk should be stored tightly in its original container as the containers were specifically designed for this purpose.

Unfortunately, freezing milk, although safe, isn’t a great option. Freezing is not recommended because freezing destabilizes the molecular structure and the resulting product will be less desirable than the fresh product. If you do freeze your milk it will keep for about 3 Months in the freezer. When thawed, the texture and color will be altered, it will be lumpy and yellow but the product will remain safe.

Some benefits of proper food storage include eating healthier, cutting food costs and helping the environment by avoiding waste.

What to do with too much before milk goes bad?

What if you have extra and don’t want it to spoil and go to waste? Here are a few simple suggestions to use up your milk before it spoils:

  • Get out a box of cook & serve pudding mix. This uses up 3 cups of milk and also heats it to boiling as an extra precaution.
  • Make some hot chocolate in a pan with milk and cocoa, again heating the milk.
  • Many people find that they fall asleep quicker if they drink warm milk before bedtime.

  • Interesting facts about the shelf life of milk?

  • Skim and non-fat milks tend to last a few days longer than regular because some bacteria will develop more slowly in them.
  • Chemical preservatives are not permitted in any milk products.
  • Some states do not regulate milk expiration at all.
  • The National Dairy Council says properly refrigerated milk usually can be kept for a few days past its “sell by” date but also notes that some milk processors guarantee their products for longer periods.
  • Keeping milk cold is critical to maximizing its shelf life.
  • Store milk on an interior refrigerator shelf rather than in the door, where the temperature fluctuates with frequent opening.

    How long is milk good for when prepared in a dish?

    How long does milk last? That depends. How long do eggs last? In general, foods last only as long as the quickest expiring ingredient that they are mixed with. To find out how long those other ingredients are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or search below!

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    What are our shelf life resources?

    Our how long does milk last content incorporates research from multiple resources, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. In addition, we scour the web for informative articles and reports related to food safety, food storage and the shelf life of milk.

    *An important note about expiration dates …

    Although the whole, reduced fat and fat-free milk shelf life information provided by Eat By Date is generally reliable, it is intended as an opinion and not a substitute for the advice of your qualified health care provider.  Please drink responsibly!